Editing of non-native copy

Jeana M. Clark, owner of Clark Translations, is passionate about translation, technology, lifelong learning and promoting the translation and interpreting profession. Her extensive service portfolio includes editing of non-native copy (Source: Diversification in the Language Industry*):


“I enjoy editing translations – regardless of whether the translation was produced by a native English speaker or a native German speaker. In fact, in our team, we prefer to have one of our native German speakers translate a text and then have it edited by one of our native English speakers who also references the source text. This gives us an appropriate check and balance for reducing the likelihood of any mistranslations. It also means that the final English version is thoroughly vetted for faithfulness, register, syntax, spelling and grammar so we are able to provide an accurate, print-ready translation that reads well and is suited for its intended audience.
Editing for non-native speakers is enjoyable and can be lucrative, but also poses some special challenges. It is definitely advisable to procure the source text if you are asked to edit a translation produced by a non-native English speaker. In my capacity as a native English speaker editing English translations produced by native German speakers, there are plenty of times when knowing and understanding where a German might be coming from on a particularly strangely worded sentence doesn’t actually help me decipher what the translator wanted to convey. Referencing the source text helps me to figure that out and also make sure that I don’t introduce a mistranslation in my attempt to fix the syntax, preposition choice, passive voice or some such issue that native German speakers often wrestle with.
The prevalence and use of Global English can also cause some difficulty when we edit for non-native English speakers. Global English (or ‘Globish’ as it is sometimes referred to as) is universally understood as English that is used internationally by non-native speakers; it is essentially simplified English that is stripped of idiomatic phrases, figurative meanings and ambiguities. It is completely natural for such a language to emerge as a lingua franca – a ‘bridge language’ between speakers who do not share a common language. But even though spoken Global English is completely acceptable in today’s business and academic circles, it is not acceptable in written texts because it is considered non-standard English.
On one level, it might seem that an English text that is as stripped and concise as possible would constitute a well written text requiring less intervention from an editor. However, if the text we provide to the client ends up sounding like ‘Me Tarzan – You Jane’ or something Yoda would say on a Star Wars episode, then we have committed a mortal sin as editors of non-native texts. Clients hire native English-speaking editors to ensure that the English target texts read well and flow naturally – they will not be very pleased if we deliver Genglish or Globish unless they have specifically requested it.”




*Source: Jeana M. Clark, ‘Editing of non-native texts’ in Diversification in the Language Industry, 2013, p. 79